Progress in third interim report on Project Woodland welcomed
Today, I published the third interim report on the implementation of Project Woodland.
The report, prepared by the Project Board overseeing the project, recorded notable progress on the implementation of Project Woodland notably the 60% increase in forestry licencing in 2021 compared to last year and the significant progress on development of a new national Forestry Strategy.
The commencement of the legal and regulatory review, with strong interaction with the Working Groups, was acknowledged as was the advancement of the development of the new Forestry Strategy, with a draft vision agreed.
The report detailed that the consultation on the strategy is already underway, with a public attitudes survey and a community engagement survey completed and broader public engagement planned for the New Year.
It noted progress on other objectives, such as the invitation for quotations for a Training Needs Analysis on licensing and the imminent roll-out of a Pre-Application Discussions pilot.
This third interim report really highlights the enormous range of work ongoing under Project Woodland. Progress is never easy on big reform projects like this and there is no silver bullet to resolving these issues, but we are definitely moving in the right direction.
I would like to highlight the contribution and active engagement of all stakeholders in Project Woodland who are contributing hugely to this progress. Their work has been facilitated by my Department, the chairs of the Working Groups and of course the members of the Project Board. This is very much a shared endeavour with all of us working towards a common goal to fully realise the potential of forestry and trees in Ireland. There is an opportunity to make a real difference and to ensure a bright future for the forestry sector and for society at large.
I believe this latest report of the Project Board should give us confidence that, while we are nowhere near the end of this process, progress to date indicates that we can achieve what we have set out to do.
There have been some real gains this year not least the continued delivery on licensing. We have issued 4,000 licences this year and exceeded expectations by licensing 8.4 million cubic metres of timber, the highest on record. Our output on forest roads was equally impressive with 260km licensed, double our target.
I know of course that output on the afforestation side is still very low but my Department is prioritising it and will soon be producing more ambitious projections for licensing for 2022, with a focus on afforestation.
Overall, I firmly believe that forestry in Ireland, in all its forms, enters 2022 in a far better place than at the beginning of the year. Our resolve to ensure that forestry in Ireland continues to be central to our environmental, social and economic priorities is as strong as ever. It’s up to all of us now continuing to work collaboratively to build on this bring further progress in 2022.